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Marine Life & Conservation

FINished with Fins

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I’m Sharon Kwok, a Eurasian American born in Hong Kong but growing up in both places. Consequently I’m in a position to appreciate both cultures. Until recent years, every banquet I attended seemed to include shark fin soup. Although the exact origin of this ostentatious dish is shrouded in mystery, we do know it had to come from China’s southern coastal regions, and it was never a favourite of the Northern Chinese. Therefore l doubt the truthfulness of claims that it was a fancy dish created for the Emperor; perhaps it was a fancy marketing ploy, but we’ll never know for sure. I’ve heard a version of shark fin soup’s origin being simply the fishermen’s frugal use of their catch. In bygone days, any obviously useful parts would either be sold fresh or salted to survive a trip to inland China. Thus, they figured out a way to make the fins edible, then palatable via the tasty ingredients used in the broth because the fins are virtually tasteless but for their fishiness.

Over the past several years, concerned parties have noticed a dramatic decline in sharks. So while businesses who deal in shark fins try to catch as much as possible while they’re still around, conservation groups are doing their best to preserve the species. In a bold move, on June 30th 2010, Hawaii started an avalanche of legal opposition to this Chinese dish; very appropriate seeing as their native population respect not only sharks but also their Shark-God ‘Kamoho’. In 2011, I was involved with lobbying for AB 376, California’s ban on the trade in shark fins. This bill was met with serious and well funded opposition due to the size of the older Chinese community in California, many of whom have business interests in the restaurant or dried seafood trade (a trade which often stretched to Asia due to much of the fins from southern American seas funnelling through California). Governor Jerry Brown signed AB376 in Oct 2011 and even after several legal attempts to overthrow it, it holds fast. This movement went swiftly to other states and even countries but the most opposition is in Asia. Living in Hong Kong, I’m at ground Zero of the trade. Fellow advocates and l try to affect change wherever and however we can, from convincing hotels to opt for ‘fin-free’ menus to pressurising airlines to stop carrying them. We also raise awareness via education in schools or raise public awareness through media. As a whole, we are thrilled to see results and sometimes, big changes such as the latest big coupe in Asia which saw Bruni’s Sultan effecting a national ban of all catch-and-landing of sharks this June.

Sharon Kwok shark fin freezers Hong Kong 2011

The reason for all the fuss isn’t merely humane issues although that should be a strong enough one because most fins come from ‘finning’ rather than as a by-product of fishing. Finning is when sharks are caught only for their fins and their bodies are thrown back into the ocean to die a torturous death. This happens because there are insufficient regulations. Fisheries that target fins send their massive boats out to collect as much high yielding goods as possible, and while a pound of perfectly edible shark meat might sell for a few U.S. dollars, a pound of premium fin could sell for a few hundred. Since many large shark species take decades to reach sexual maturity and bear but a few young infrequently, these apex predators do not multiply quickly enough to cope with the insatiable demand…and because dried fins can be kept indefinitely, fisheries will literally take all they can for the unsustainable trade.

Perhaps a more important reason for putting a stop to this is the preservation of our oceans as we know it. Sharks have been here since pre-Jurassic times and they are a vital link that maintain the biodiversity of our marine ecology. We know that they’ve never come under the level of predation they’re currently suffering and their numbers are in obvious decline, but we don’t know for sure what their disappearance will mean to us. However, do we want to risk it? Dare we? Our oceans cover well over three quarters of the Earth’s surface. It helps maintain our climate as well as providing us with water and much of our oxygen. We are custodians of our resources so that future generations may enjoy them so at this time, one of the most  responsible things to do is to say ‘NO’ to shark fin soup.

Sharon Kwok was born in Hong Kong of a Chinese mother and an American father of Germanic descent. She has taught arts at the Asian Arts Institute, enjoyed a career in acting (and has appeared in over a dozen films as well as worked at T.V.B., RTHK, and ATV Hong Kong), is a member of The White Crane Martial Arts Group International and is a keen scuba diver. Sharon has supported charities such as Lifeline Express, Youth Outreach, Make A Wish Foundation, and Prevent Child Sexual Abuse to name a few. A member of The Society of Women Geographers, ambassador for SPCA H.K., Hong Kong Cetacean Research Project, and Bloom, Sharon is also Director of WildAid HK, Mission Blue, and Executive Director of the AquaMeridian Conservation & Education Foundation, which is a registered non-profit organization that aims to raise awareness of conservation issues globally, starting with Hong Kong.

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Save the Manatee Club launches brand new webcams at Silver Springs State Park, Florida

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Save the Manatee® Club has launched a brand-new set of underwater and above-water webcams at Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL. These new cameras add to our existing cameras at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida, and Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park, in Homosassa, Florida, which are viewed by millions of people worldwide. The cameras are a collaboration between Save the Manatee Club, Explore.org, and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who made the new live streaming collaboration possible via support of their interpretative program.

The above-water camera is a stationary pan/tilt/zoom camera that will show manatees and other wildlife from above water, while the new underwater camera provides the viewer with a brand new, exciting 180-degree viewing experience. Viewers can move the cameras around, trying to spot various fish and manatees.

The Silver River, which originates at Silver Springs, provides important habitat for manatees and many other species of wildlife. Over recent years, more manatees have been seen utilizing the Silver and Ocklawaha rivers. “The webcams provide a wonderful entertainment and educational tool to the general public, but they also help us with the manatee research,” says Patrick Rose, Executive Director of Save the Manatee Club. “We have learned so much through observing manatees on our existing webcams, and the new cameras at Silver Spring can add to the existing manatee photo-ID research conducted in this area, as well as highlighting Silver Springs and the Silver River as an important natural habitat for manatees.”

The webcams are streaming live during the daytime, with highlights playing at night, and can be viewed on Explore.org and on Save the Manatee Club’s website at ManaTV.org.

Save the Manatee Club, established in 1981 by the late renowned singer-songwriter, author, and entrepreneur Jimmy Buffett, along with former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham, is dedicated to safeguarding manatees and preserving their aquatic habitat. For more information about manatees and the Club’s efforts, visit savethemanatee.org or call 1-800-432-JOIN (5646).

Photo: www.avalon.red

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Experience the Red Sea in May with Bella Eriny Liveaboard! As the weather warms up, there’s no better time to dive into the crystal clear waters of the Red Sea. Join us on Bella Eriny, your premier choice for Red Sea liveaboards, this May for an unforgettable underwater adventure. Explore vibrant marine life and stunning coral reefs Enjoy comfortable accommodation in our spacious cabins Savor delicious meals prepared by our onboard chef Benefit from the expertise of our professional dive guides Visit our website for more information and to secure your spot: www.scubatravel.com/BellaEriny or call 01483 411590 More Less

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